First referenced on LinkedIn circa December 2020,
this Guest paper was retrieved and permission provided to republish here.
It is copyright to Antonio Nieto‑Rodriguez © 2020.
Note: This paper concludes with a brief discussion between Antonio and Max.
Published here January 2021.

Introduction | Trend #1: The End of Job Descriptions, the Start of Project Roles  
Trend #2: From Project Manager to Strategy Implementation Professionals
Trend #3: Expanding Our Toolkit, It Is Not Waterfall or Agile
Trend #4: The Project Management Office (PMO), Transform Now or Game Over
Trend #5: Artificial Intelligence Will Radically Disrupt Project Management Soon
A Global Challenge | Discussion Between Max and Antonio

Discussion between Max and Antonio

Max Wideman (MW): As Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez says: "There are fewer 'low-cost' ways of working more inclusive, impactful, motivating and inspiring than being part of a project with an ambitious goal, a higher purpose, and a clear fixed deadline." All true, but nevertheless if we are to be serious about such a challenge adapting and growing and growing fast, then we must not be too glib about the challenge. Therefore, I would like to offer a few further observations.

For example, on any large project, a "Project Manager" cannot do all that is required all on his own. He or she needs specialist supporters covering such topics as detailed scheduling, cost control, quality assurance, and even coordination, publicity and so on. These people have to work together and, just coincidentally, are often called the project office.

Significant management changes typically occur through evolution, driven by the types of projects involved. Therefore, any serious discussion of such management changes must make it clear what type of projects we are we talking about. Different project types require different management approaches which in turn is largely reflected in their respective project life spans.

MW: In Trend #1, the implication is that "project managers" will no longer exist as specialists in their own right, but rather will become "fixers", "problem solvers", "people organizers", etc. Surprisingly, we already have those "unofficial types" of people. All we have to do is give them a name and some sort of, err, well: "job description"?

Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez (ANR): Not at all. My observation doesn't imply that project managers will no longer exit or become fixers. The statement is that more and more people are spending time in projects, including senior managers. Therefore there is no point in having job descriptions, they were good in a stable world, driven by efficiency, but outdated in a world driven by change.

MW: In Trend #2, certainly, many project managers would love to be involved earlier in the project life cycle, whatever the title, and certainly would have to bring extended skills to the table to do so. However, such people as Business Analysts (when employed) or the movers and shakers who subsequently act as "sponsors" already fill this spot. That implies that the focus of such changes will need to be on future upper management. That, in turn, implies that the focus needs to be on higher education content. For my two pennies worth, I am convinced that the essence of project management should be introduced into the educational system at a much earlier stage.

ANR: I disagree. What you describe is what has happened in the past 40 years, not what I see in the future. If we know that more than 50% all of projects are doomed to fail of the beginning, project managers should play a critical role in this phase, not just take on whatever they are asked for. Business Analysts is a role that doesn't exist in most corporations. Project managers need to step up to become accountable for delivering the project and its benefits, become entrepreneurs and the CEOs of their projects.

MW: In Trend #4, the blanket assumption that all PMOs are basically the same is misleading. If the inhabitants of the office serve several projects, then the entity is more likely a Program Office anyway. If, however, the PMO simply refers to the home of those directly supporting the Project Manager of a single project, then that group will likely disband on completion of that project, or move on to the next big project.

The problem with many of these situations is that we don't have any real standard naming conventions, let alone a consistent set of service responsibilities.

ANR: In my publications, I don't like to enter into PM technicism i.e., distinction between projects, programs, portfolios. These are in our internal kitchen, and are often confusing and not relevant to our most important stakeholders anyway.

MW: On Time Management, working to a time constraint (deadline) is a valuable incentive in the project management process. It is, however, typically no more than a man-made, arbitrary, construct that should not be used to define success or failure of a project. Only if the project's output is time-limited by some outside influence or occurrence should this result be included in the definition of a specific project's success. Examples of this include such things as containment within a seasonal weather opportunity, or essential delivery to a larger program such as an official opening day, and so on. The case for cost is somewhat similar, but only when the cost directly affects the financial viability of the project's output or the financial survival of the source of funding.

Likely, there are other similar issues that we shall encounter as we, as project managers, move firmly into the future.

ANR: I fully agree.

A Global Challenge  A Global Challenge

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